A murder case has many layers: the victim, the crime, and the investigation. To truly understand it, you need to dissect each piece of a tragic puzzle. Join Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi and Scott Weinberger every Wednesday for an insider’s perspective, as they reveal to you the Anatomy of Murder.
Wed, 08 Dec 2021 08:00
The events depicted in horror movies are meant to live only on screen. In this case, the horrors that occurred in one Alabama house were all too real.
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Grab your copy of all good people here now, wherever books are sold. Horror movies are unsettling movies designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm, and to evoke our worst hidden fears, often in terrifying, shocking finale. And that's what this was. This was a real life or amenity. I'm Scott Weinberger's, investigative journalist and former deputy sheriff. I'm Anna Sigga Nicolazzi, former New York City homicide prosecutor and host of investigation Discovery's true conviction. With anatomy of murder. I wanted to start today's story, really with a question. What do you consider evil? Have you ever really thought about it? Now the textbook definition reads someone who is morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked, someone who enjoys harming others. And by the end of today's case, you may find yourself adding a few more descriptions to that list. For today's case, I spoke with Ashley Rich. She is the elected District Attorney from Mobile, AL. I was born and raised here in mobile, put myself through law school, I got a job clerking while I was taking the bar to watch criminal trials, and I just fell in love with what they were doing and how they were wearing the white hat and doing the right thing. And I've been to DA now for two to six year terms, and I'm currently running for my third six year term. Today's case takes place in Citronelle, Alabama, 2016, and while there are many people involved with this story, we're first talking about two couples. The first couple is Joseph Turner and his wife, Shannon. Joseph, Adam, Turner and Shannon had been together for quite some time. They had a good relationship and Shannon had just given birth to Darren, who was a little boy, and he was three months old. That couple had been together for years, and by all accounts, it was a strong, loving relationship. But the second couple that we're going to focus on while their relationship was anything but, that relationship was between Joseph sister Lanita and her longtime boyfriend Derek Dearman. It was a very tumultuous relationship, lots of domestic violence, basically, you know, beating her. We have done several stories that involve domestic violence and coercive control. They often highlight the cycle of violence that a domestic partner finds himself in and the difficulty it is usually to get out of the grips of an abuser. And whether they share a child or it's a financial constraint, there's normally no easy path to break free. And in the case of lanita, the violence was more than she could bear, so she sought refuge with her brother. And she called her brother and told him that she didn't want to live with him anymore. And so her brother picked her up and brought her back to his house and she was allowed to stay in that blow up mattress in her brother's house, along with all of the other occupants. Her brother's house was a full house at the time. It wasn't just him and his wife and their baby. They also had another couple staying with them as well. Chelsea Reed and Justin Reid were also their friends and they needed a place to stay. And by no means was this a large house. It was only two bedrooms and one bath, and they had just found out several weeks prior that she was pregnant. And they were ecstatic. You know, they were just getting excited about the promise of a baby in their future. And it was not unusual for couples to share their homes with others, mainly because they were the same age. Except for Joseph's wife, they were all in their mid 20s. Now, while that might seem like a lot of people for that small house, but just think back. Depending on your age or wherever you're from, you know it's not uncommon for people, especially young people, to live together. So now in the House you have Joseph and Shannon with their newborn Justin and Chelsea, who were expecting and lanita. But now, when it comes to linita, things are a bit deeper and darker because she's not there just staying with friends and family. She's also there trying to escape from abusive relationship. But Derek still persisted, constantly asking to be let in and even asking to stay there as well. And they let him come to the home because while this relationship had been tumultuous and Lanita was trying to get out. It's that cycle of violence that we've talked about, and unfortunately most of you know and have at least heard about all too well. Because even the abused, they want to believe it's going to get better. So her brother and the others in the house, they let him come over, but they just didn't want him to stay. And he just wouldn't take no for an answer, and so he kept showing up on the property. The relationship between Linita and Derek was always pretty contentious. It was a volatile relationship fueled by drug use and a really nasty temper. They started with marijuana when he was 16 and he stole from his mom drugs. This is just a note from some of his records that we got, and it says Dearman is a cocky 15 year old that wants his way and will argue until he gets his way. He does not think he does anything wrong. There was a trail on Derrick's temper tantrums dating back to elementary school. He had a horrible relationship with his parents, and there was even reports that he assaulted his mother. Anybody that knows Derek Dearman will tell you he was hotheaded. All of his records show anger management problems at school. Defiant with authority, he beat his mother up his entire life. He had this ridiculous anger management issue and it was never put in check. And this is not the first troubled relationship Derek had had he'd actually been married years before he had been married. He had two kids, and that relationship was also known to be violent. And she luckily took her two children and got out of that relationship. But for lanita, she had met him when she was 15 years old, so we all know that going down that route, it's all the more difficult. I mean, look, I can even talk about myself. I don't really think I came into my own with my confidence. And while I never had a relationship, fortunately, like a Derek Dearman, I was really much stronger once I hit about 30. And I think especially for young people, it is very hard to see sometimes what's before their eyes. So they'd be in, they've been out. And so while there was abuse, she kept. Believing and hoping it would get better. Physical abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse. The relationship would go from calm to rage and a flash. It didn't seem like it took too much to set Derek off. The cycle had been going on between this couple all the way from when they had started almost a decade before. I think many of you out there may be asking, why would Lenny to stay with somebody like that for so long? And you know, we see this in a lot of these cases where they just have either nowhere else to go. They're financially. Tied to somebody. Or they want to believe that things could get better, that things would resolve and someone would come around and treat them the way they'd like to be treated. But too often that never comes. They had tried to get her away multiple times but she kept going back. We see that over and over again in domestic violence situations. Even though she was attempting to escape that volatile relationship, Derek was still able to come over by the home that she was staying at and spend time as long as he would agree that he would leave at the end of the day. And Lenita's brother Joseph, was well aware of what was going on. The fact that obviously that he was there, but as long as he didn't stay, that was the boiling point. You could spend time with her, but you had to leave because I was watching over her. He remains her protector. But Derek Dearman didn't want to hear no, you can't stay. He wasn't doing anything to respect them. He was continuing to come. I'm sure the baby was asleep and, you know, she didn't want the baby to be woken up every time he came over there and, you know, that kind of thing. So on Friday night, August 19th, the situation changed for the worse. So that evening was a typical start for a low key weekend. One of their friends, Robert Brown, came over, they had a cookout, and everyone gathered in the house to watch a movie. You know, at first it was a very normal Friday night and as it got late they all began to go to bed. Remember, it is a rural area, everything is quiet. And so they start to hear footsteps. And then, without warning, an unwanted visitor came knocking at the door. Derrick came back to the house and that's when they told him, you can't stay on the property anymore, Derek, you have to go. And he said, OK, I'm going to spend the night at the nearby pipeline area. Yet he returned 3 hours later. They tell him to leave, but he comes back again and again. But this time, Joseph told Derek not only to leave, but he was not even welcome on their property. And once he left, Joseph set up a spotlight on the driveway to make sure that they could see him if he would return. Just think about that. This guy who they know has an anger problem, who does not want to let his girlfriend go, who is inside that house, who they also know has a problem with narcotics misuse. And no matter what they say and how many times they say it, he just won't leave. In fact, they took one step further. Shannon Randall called. This is duplice department, and that's when they came. Met them at the church, and she said she didn't want Derrick Dearman in her home, and so they patrolled the area for about 30 minutes after that, but they couldn't find Derek. And yet the hours keep ticking by until 3:00 AM. That's when Derek would return once again. Now, he obviously knew that Joseph and Shannon, they were done with him, but he also knew there was someone in the house that would likely let him in. Derek snuck back to the house and he knocked on the window that was above linita's bed, and he's told Lenita that he needed a cigarette and something to drink. And so she said, well, you can't come in the house, and she went outside. She gave him a cigarette. She gave him something to drink. So why do you think she would go outside? He doesn't say, hey, come away with me, lanita, hey, let me inside. You better let me inside. He almost innocuously asks for a drink and a cigarette. And to me, that plays two ways. One, he's not being threatening, right? This is the guy that she keeps going back to. And so maybe it's like, hey, sure, he's being calm. I'll go outside and talk to him and let it be. But it's also the best thing to hopefully protect all those people inside. There's not only adults. There's one adult who's pregnant. There's another baby, three months old inside that house, and she knows where his temper can get him. And she has probably seen too many times that when she doesn't do as he wants, how his temper flares violently and quickly. And so the best way to keep the peace is to go outside and give him that drink and that cigarette. I think that she felt maybe he calmed down at this point and she could potentially reason with him as she's done hundreds of times before, but he was trying to get her outside, potentially away from the people that were protecting her. She said I'm going back to bed. Everybody else in the house was asleep and she went back into the sliding glass door. She shut the sliding glass door and then she went to bed. She didn't know where Derek was. When she went to bed. He sat on the truck tailgates and he saw the axe in the tree and he got the axe. He basically if I can't have lanita, they can't have her either. That was the early morning hours of August 20th. Later in that day, in the afternoon, police got a visit at their office. And it's not who you may think it was Derek Dearman. It was about 30 miles away, across the state border, that Derek walked into Greene County Sheriff's Office in Mississippi, telling deputies at the front desk he wanted to turn himself in. Standing in the lobby with him was his father, who had convinced him to do the right thing. He said he was there to turn himself in on outstanding warrants for failure to pay child support. They searched at the Greene County sheriff's station for those outstanding warrants, and they came back. There were no warrants found. Derek Dearman's response to the dispatcher was, well, that's another day to fish. But his father had other plans, telling him that he needed to admit that he'd just committed murder in Citronelle AL. And so while police hearing that right away took him into custody, they didn't know what to think while he's just admitted to a crime. So that gives them probable cause for arrest. You have to know whether the crime actually happened. And so that's when they dispatch officers out to the residence to see if what they're saying is in fact true. They had not gotten a 911 call as you usually get when there's been murder or even any big altercation anywhere. I think everybody was in shock. There was no 911 call, there was nothing. And so it was just a incredibly hard for them to fathom the way in which this was unfolding. And not only did law enforcement go out there, but it didn't take long for Ashley Rich, the elected DA, to go out there as well. It is really important for prosecutors to go to the scene to see exactly what's transpired because our job is to communicate that to a jury and it's hard to do that if you never have visited the scene or you don't know the real dynamics of the scene. Citronelle, Alabama. It's the northern border of Mobile County, which is the oil capital, Alabama. But it is a small town and remote. You know, hearing about it, you can only think about almost like you're stepping back in time. Citronelle is a very rural part of our county, and so it was very difficult to even get to the House because it was down an unmarked dirt Rd where you had to traverse basically on the side of a couple of fields. And I can almost picture what Ashley Rich describes as she pulls up to that home in Citronelle. That time I got there, the word had spread through the community just rampant because it's just such a small community and everybody knows everybody. And there were family members already there trying to figure out what in the world had gone on. And, you know, in that house there are people outside crying, demanding answers. They want to be let inside that house. So as she has to sift through all these people, she walks up to that house. To see for herself if what she's been told is true. The first thing you see when we drove down there was there were children's toys in the yard. Anytime you see that, you know that there's an innocent child that has been traumatized obviously by the events that have happened. And it's going to be relevant to what they found inside to describe this house in and of itself. It is a small one story house looks like it was built either in the 60s or the 70s. There's a small porch out in front. There is this sliding glass doors that we've been talking about. But it almost looks like the type of place that you couldn't go in the front door without seeing what's already out the back. It was daytime when they began the crime scene search. As they walked in, they found a body lying facedown just inside the living room area, with his neck over the threshold of the door and his body inside the living room. He had been chopped with the axe multiple times, and then he had been shot. He chopped him in the jaw, the forehead, the right lateral eye, and the top of the head. He was Robert Brown, the friend that had just come over the night before to spend time with his friends. As investigators moved down the hall to the first bedroom that was a room occupied by Justin and Chelsea Reed, the couple who was celebrating the fact that she was 18 weeks pregnant. Chelsea was partially in the hallway with her legs still in the bedroom, and Justin was immediately behind her. On the 4th, Chelsea sustained an axe wound to the right side of her head and to the back of her head, and Justin Reed sustained an axe chop wound to his face and his mouth. In his left and right arm and his left hand and left leg. A lot of those can be considered defensive wounds to his left and right arms as he puts his arms up to protect or shield himself from the axe. Investigators continue to go through this small home. Further down the hallway was now a second bedroom, and inside were two more people. Joseph Adam Turner was at the doorway on the ground and Shannon Randall was still in her bed. She was sleeping on her stomach when she was chopped and then shot in the back of the head. You know, it's hard to think of what to say about this that all of you aren't already thinking. We are talking about 12345 people inside that home, all lying there in different states of death after having been chopped and shot and one of them had been pregnant with the child. We also have to let you know that Joseph and Shannon would share a bed with their baby. Darren Shannon would always sleep with her arm around the baby, but when investigators looked throughout the place, the baby wasn't there and neither was linita. You know, as member of law enforcement and prosecutors, we're trained to be able to process these scenes both in a criminal sense and a psychological sense. But, you know, these take a piece of you every time you have to walk through House of horrors like this. Well, it was the worst crime scene I've ever seen, and I've seen a tremendous amount of crime scenes and I've seen a tremendous amount of blood spatter. But this scene was so involved with the numerous axe blows to each individual victim following it up with shooting each of them with a firearm. You know, in every crime scene, it's important for the lead investigator to conduct a scene assessment. And you know that's doing an initial walkthrough, determining without too many people walking through the crime scene, what items that may be in plain sight could have evidentiary value. Really, a tremendous amount of care needs to be done to almost treat each room as an individual scene. But then take that 10,000 foot view and try to determine exactly what happened. It was determined that both weapons that were used, the 45 caliber handgun and the shotgun, were already in the House when Derek Dearman walked into that house holding an axe. And it was also determined, which is horrific to even say this is, that all of the victims likely survived the axe attack, only to be executed with a handgun and with a shotgun to get the job done. Where is llanito? Did she escape? And she's still somewhere there hiding? Did Dearman get her out of the house and is now done something with her, but she isn't inside? Or did she get out of the house before he was able to do anything at all? Was she alive or dead? And how about the three month old baby that had been lying between his parents as this massacre unfolded? Investigators were able to piece together what had happened to Lonita and it is a unbelievable story. In graphic description, Deerman detailed his moment by moment, room by room, victim by victim attack. He broke into the sliding glass door that woke up Robert Brown, who was sleeping right by the door, in the recliner, and he started chopping with the axe. Then he proceeded down the hallway, attacking next Joseph and Shannon. Derek says I hit him with an axe, then Shannon then went to Chelsea and Josh's room and killed them with the axe. Then Justin and Chelsea. But Justin armed himself with a 45 caliber handgun, and Deerman wrestled that weapon away and shot Justin in the throat. And that's what woke up Lenita Lester. Meanwhile, back in the living room, Robert Brown had gotten up from his chop wings. He was able to stand. And Derek Deerman shot him behind his right ear, and that's when he fell through the glass of the sliding glass doors. Juanita grabbed the baby. Her brother still wasn't dead, but Deerman quickly shot him and killed him too, then proceeded to walk back to each victim, and he executed them one by one. So now she is holding the three month old baby that other than herself the only survivor still in that home and German forces her to leave the house and get into his car. And they fled the scene, she holding the baby, the baby covered in blood. I mean, this is somebody who has just committed mass murder and within that house, but he left his girlfriend and her nephew unharmed only to abduct them, take them with him, and what was he thinking? We know The Who, we know the how, and let's talk about what may have been the why. Derek says. I went into the house from the front door thinking everyone was trying to kidnap and hurt. My girlfriend is why was nobody is going to take Lenita Lester away from me and nobody's going to tell me I can't have her. Her brother came and took her away from me. I'm going to do whatever it takes to have her by my side. That's his motive. So where do they go from there? You know, for deerman he is off to the races and his mind is probably racing like what to do next. But he at least has that object of his affection back. And I can only think though, when it comes to lenita, while she is probably dazed, shocked, confused, she's probably also incredibly scared. So it was going to do exactly what he says. Linita was already aware of what Deerman was capable of, so I believe she was clearly in survival mode, especially having her nephew along with her. Could Dearman act out and take both of their lives? I believe she felt he could. So for her, it was to do anything she can do to convince him that she was not going to turn him in, but also she was looking for that opportunity to break away from him. Derek Dearman drove to his sister's home in Greene County, Mississippi, which is a neighboring county over in Mississippi. And they got there. Around 7:00 AM, Derrick Dearman made-up a story and told his sister that the blood on the hands and his clothing was from them hitting a deer. And as a result of them hitting a deer, that's why they were in Shannon Randall's car. They didn't have any baby supplies, and they didn't bring, you know, of course, the diapers, formula or anything to care for the infants. So they left her house, went to a truck stop, and purchased baby supplies. And so why didn't she try to escape? The places that they went were very rural places, not somewhere where she could run and get help, but she's now also holding this baby, this innocent 3 month old child. And so if she tries to run and takes the child and he gets to her, what is he going to do to her? And then to this child, she's probably in shock. So her behavior to someone who has never experienced seeing six people brutally murdered, she's not going to act the way. A normal person would act. The couple would had another 30 minutes down the road to Dearman's friend Scott's house. He wasn't there, but his parents were, and at that point Derek had been up all night, so the decision was to leave Lanita's nephew with Scott's parents. The next stop was to go to Scott's trailer, which was nearby, and Derek and Lanita would go to sleep. And I know some of you may say, wait, what? They went to sleep? Well, we've all heard that killers often can go to sleep after they have just taken lives. It's almost like that high that release is done and they're just exhausted and yet their mind is calm enough to go to bed. But for her, whether she actually slept or not, who knows. But remember if she is going to wait until she thinks she has a chance of making her escape. While she is going to game it out and time it out and for right then and there, the best way for her to keep herself safe was to go to sleep beside him. After leaving Scott's trailer, Derek and Lanita, along with her nephew, headed to Dearman's father's house and it was at this time, while Deerman was talking to his father, that Lanita saw a potential opening to make a break. Now this is where it gets really crazy. This is too unfortunately, something straight out of what I picture in a horror movie that your heart is pumping while you watch every bit of this unfolding. I feel like we've been in a horror movie this whole episode, so you got to be honest with you. He was talking to his father outside of his father's house. That's the first time Lanita Lester felt like she could get away from him. She jumped in the car with the baby, this baby that still has blood on its body, and took off, headed back to Citronellol, where she went straight to the Police Department in the lobby with the baby in her hands to report a massacre. Because just think about it for her. She has been staying with this mass murderer at this point until she can try to safely get away. It leaves you speechless in the intensity of it all. Remember when we told you that Dearman walked into a Mississippi Sheriff's Department, wanted to turn himself in for child support? Perhaps he was trying to determine whether law enforcement already knew what he had done, and when he was told that he could leave, that he wasn't wanted for anything. Potentially he felt the bodies had not been discovered at that point, and he may have more time. And so it just so happens that, you know, Lenny, the Lester's there saying the same thing both at the Greene County Sheriff's Department and the Citronelle Police Department. And so now you know Deerman is in custody and lanita and that baby are finally safe. So now let's go back to our victims. I think these victims died in the most inhumane way ever possible. I think they suffered, and mercifully, I think they fought for their lives and no human being should have to die in the manner in which they die. Cause my heart to break, number one and the baby is all I can think of was I hope and pray this baby never remembers a single thing that happened. Many of you may be asking, how is this even conceivable? Who could be this evil? Derek Deerman told investigators he could be that evil when he confessed to the entire massacre. On August 22nd, 2 days after the murder, he was extradited to Alabama where he stood charges for six counts of capital murder. You know, I'm gonna put my legal hat on here for a second, because here it really does matter sometimes where a crime occurs because we keep talking about 5 people and an unborn child, while in Alabama, that unborn child makes it, under the law, six people. But yet, if you're in New York, part of the definition of homicide is the killing of a person who has been born and is alive. So it really does matter sometimes the charges you face and the degrees. Depending where you are. And he pled not guilty. But you know, we see this time and time again, even when people flat out confess and give very detailed scenarios of what they have done, when it is time to actually take responsibility and be held accountable as far as an actual plea that they say no, you know what? I know what I'm facing, which is the rest of my life or in this case potentially death. I'm going to roll the dice and see what a jury says. You know, we have a mission statement here at the Mobile County DA's office that I instituted when I became a prosecutor. And first and foremost, vigorously prosecute crime. Second is deliver justice for all victims, and 3rd is support law enforcement in seeking the truth. And then the 4th prong is aggressively working to prevent crime. And I need to help in all areas of our mission statement. And and one of those is vigorously prosecuting crime. You know an elected District Attorney, they have so many obligations, but to still get in there and try cases as she does, well, that is a whole nother skill set. And from someone who tried cases for as many years as I did, I find it almost hard to fathom doing everything that the elected has to do, but still trying cases as serious as this. Most electeds with a staff of 80 employees don't try cases, but I knew as a former prosecutor on the murder team and Drug Court team and various teams, I knew that if as the elected. I stopped trying cases. I would pretty much die on the vine, so I think it's important that I lead by example. And so I I still do still get in the courtroom. You know, I'll be the first to say there is no such thing as a slam dunk, because sometimes if you see it that way, or the ones that seem the most straightforward end up with the biggest surprises. I mean, the hardest thing sometimes for juries to fathom is the details of a case like this, so gruesome when somebody confesses to them so matter of fact. Could that play into their believability? We live in our worlds. We love our families. We don't kill our families, we raise our children. We do all of these things. And then to hear that there's this evil, evil person walking around that would kill six people, it's just really hard to find them. So that was the hardest thing in this case. After mental evaluations and hearings 2 years later, it seemed that this was going to go to trial. But then DEERMAN flipped the script. He pled guilty in September of 2018. But even though he pled guilty, it doesn't go as you would expect. German would still have to stand trial. And he may have a way out. So you may still be scratching your head from hearing that after Deerman pled guilty that he still had to stand trial. Well, again, it's going to come down to different rules for different states. In Alabama, this was a capital murder case, which meant that if found guilty that he at least potentially faced the death penalty. So in Alabama, even if someone's willing to plead guilty, a jury must be the ones to still look at all the evidence and find that person guilty of the crime. That would be step one, because there is then. The second step, which would be almost an additional phase, which is the capital phase where they then must rule on punishment. During Deerman's confession, he talked about a lot of things. He gave a written statement. I'll read it to you. Through all this, I truly thought everyone was trying to kidnap my girlfriend and hurt her. After everything, I told my girlfriend to grab the baby and get in the car. She did so out of fear of me. I drove thinking I was running from the people trying to get us and hurt us. When I came down from the drugs and realized what happened, I turned myself in. Derek Tierman talked a lot about his intravenous drug use of methamphetamines and how he was high when he committed these murders. Was he setting himself up for a solid defense that he was not of his right mind when he committed these mass murders? Now, just to flesh it out a little bit without getting too far into the weeds. You know, voluntary intoxication is not normally a defense to a crime. You know, you can't get high or drunk and then say, well, sorry, you know, I couldn't help myself. But at times you can prove that you were so under the influence of that substance that you no longer knew right from wrong. So you actually can't intend to commit anything because you're just so out of it that it takes that much away. It's not a complete. Defence, but it certainly can lower what you can be found guilty of. Criminal defendants all the time prior to hide behind the use of drugs as the excuse or the reason why they committed a crime. There's no doubt in my mind that he was shooting up meth, but he didn't have a lot of money at the time that this hurt. So the last time he, by his own admission, says he admits to shooting up meth was earlier in the evening around 5:00 o'clock, and this occurred at 5:00 AM, twelve hours later. Anyone that knows anything about methamphetamine knows it is a very volatile, dangerous drug, and we see some of the most heinous crimes that I've ever heard of while people are under the influence. But as long as the prosecutor can show that he still knew what he was doing and that he knew what he was doing was wrong, well then the defense fails. I think people think if you want to confess and you want to plead guilty to killing six people, that something's mentally wrong with you. But there was nothing mentally wrong with Derek Dearman, and he wasn't insane. He wasn't insanely high, and that's evidenced by the fact that he remembers everything. And remember, he is luring lenita out. He is breaking back in. He then takes off with her. He clearly knows that what he has done is wrong based on the steps that he took not only before but afterwards. So while methamphetamine very well may have played into his blow up state if you will, that isn't an excuse to the crime. Ashley Rich felt like he was being cold and calculated by this strategy and she made it very clear that he was doing everything he could do to get that. On the jury's mind and it was her biggest challenge in prosecuting this case. But it was very clear Derrick Dearman knew what he was doing. And that was my biggest battle is to make sure the jury understood that. Don't let Derek Dearman hide behind some mental defense. Don't let Derek Dearman hide behind the drugs. Because he told it over and over again to the police in explicit detail that he did this and he is just inherently evil. So now, in yet another surprising turn of events, Deerman decided to represent himself. And he was counseled multiple times by the judge. He has the right to do that, but it's not necessarily a good idea. Now what that means is this. He is the one talking to the jury. He is the one questioning the witnesses. Now, the judge is still going to appoint him what's called shadow counsel. He will still have lawyers that are sitting either with him at the table or at least in the courtroom in case he needs advice or to strategize. But he is the one calling the shots. But just imagine what that was like for all the witnesses that had to come into that courtroom and testify against him. Dearman had an opportunity to stand up in front of his own jury and tell them his story. So he spoke in his opening statement and this is what he said. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as you know, my name is Derrick Dearman. Unfortunately, we're here today because August the 20th, 2016 tragedy happened and I took the lives of five innocent people. Drugs are not an excuse for what I did. I turned myself in from day one, told the truth, and give everything I possibly could to ensure that the victims family and the victims get the justice that they duly and rightfully deserve. Drugs are not an excuse. Unfortunately, the state of Alabama requires that we go through this guilt part and you're going to hear things. You're going to see things that I really wish you didn't have to. But unfortunately, for justice to be served, you have to see these things. I apologize for that. I apologize to everyone else. The things they're going to have to hear, short, sweet honesty. I've done everything I could to try to give back. Thank you for your time, and hopefully we can get through this as quickly as possible so justice can be served. Thank you. He said that he believes the victims should get justice, but in a sense he still was there fighting for his life. In my opening I talked about one of the most famous horror movies where the evil character killed his victims with an axe was Friday the 13th and talked about the definition of what a horror movie was. And that's what this was. This was a real life horror movie. And one of the most difficult moments in the trial was when Ashley Rich introduced an 11 minute video. The video was the crime scene walkthrough by a Mobile County crime scene investigator. It was a slow walk through the home showing all of the victims just how first officers found them on scene, and it was reported that during that video. Derek Deerman never glanced up at the screen. Ashley Rich was indeed able to show this jury that drugs weren't the reason for these murders. While he may have been fueled by them, it was his need for control and dominance that caused him to go into that home and massacre all these people, and the jury agreed. Derek Deerman was found guilty of 12 counts of capital murder, guilty of two counts for each victim of the murder during the course of a burglary and murder of two or more people. And even after they find the defendant guilty, they have to go into a sentencing phase of the trial. And in that sentencing phase of the trial is where we present the aggravating factors of why he should receive the death penalty and the defense presents mitigating factors for things why he should not receive the death penalty. And So what happens at this stage? Normally you can't talk about an accused background or things that they have done before. There's only certain circumstances that you can say things on their behalf. But this is exactly where all that comes in. Not only does the prosecution present here, but the defense has the opportunity as well. And for the prosecution, it is trying to show that the elements of heinous, atrocious and cruel have been met. Because if the jury finds that they have, then she can ask them to come back with clearly the ultimate. Punishment the death penalty. And to prove the heinous, atrocious or cruel element as an aggravating circumstance, that's where our forensic pathologist got on the stand and talked about how unmercifully they suffered with the chop wounds from the axe until he fatally shot them with the gun, and the jury returned a penalty verdict of 12 to 0 and recommended the death penalty. So while sitting on death row, Derek Dearman penned a letter to Ashley Rich. And we're not going to talk about the contents of that letter because we really don't want to give him any more attention. But I will tell you this. In that letter, he was trying to manipulate the system. And to me, this was just another failed attempt by Derek Dearman to be in control. At the top of the podcast, I talked about the definition of the word evil, and I know most of you who are listening to this have a definition on their own of what Derek Dearman did that day. It's not only the lives that he took. But it's what he did to the people who survived. I think about what he did to lanita she had gone to this home seeking safety, and in the end she ended up watching her brother and all these people die. While she continues to live and she survived in a way, he destroyed a big part of her that day. She saw this happen and. I don't think she'll ever will. I know she'll never be the same. TuneIn next week for another new episode of Anatomy of Murder. Anatomy of Murder is an audio Chuck original. Produced and created by Weinberger Media and Forseti Media. Ashley Flowers and Summit David are executive producers. So what do you think, Chuck, do you approve? Umm.